U.S. Minimum Wage - Compare It To The Rest Of World

President Obama used his State of the Union address to declare his determination to raise the U.S. minimum wage above 10 dollars. Wage policy in the rest of the world may surprise you.

A welder in an Indian factory
A welder in an Indian factory
Julie Farrar

WASHINGTON D.C. — President Barack Obama has called on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage, the centerpiece proposal in Tuesday's State of the Union address that focused on economic inequality in America.

Pointing out that the current minimum of $7.25 is nearly 20% lower in real spending power than it was 25 years ago, he urged legislators to support a bill that would bring the national rate to $10.10.

Republicans are on the record opposing any increase to the minimum wage. "When you raise the cost of something, you get less of it," Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, told a news conference.

But it might surprise you to learn that many other countries, including those considered more progressive than the U.S. on economic policy, don’t have any minimum wage. Norway, Sweden and Denmark, who consistently top the lists of happiest places to live, don’t have a standard minimum.

Map via Creative Commons

Even Germany, backbone of the European economy, has only just recently proposed to phase in an 8.50 euros ($11.6) an hour minimum by January 2017 because of demands from the center-left SPD during coalition negotiations with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Egypt’s interim military-led government announced last week that it would implement new minimum income regulations in an attempt to quell protesters demanding social justice, increasing it up to some $172 per month.

Iran’s figures are higher than those of Bulgaria and Romania, both EU member states ($2.1 per hour compared to $1.34 and $1.46 respectively), but the lowest, according to the official minimum wage rates of the UN members, is Uganda where workers can legally earn $0.01 hourly.

A bean field in Kawanda, Uganda. Photo by CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture via Flickr

On the other end of the scale, the five countries with the highest hourly minimum wages are Australia ($16.88), Luxembourg ($14.24), Monaco ($12.83), France ($12.22), and Belgium ($11.69).

India has more than 1,200 different minimum wage policies, varying from state to state and sector to sector. According to website, the National Floor Level of Minimum Wage has been raised to $1.84 per day. Locally set in China, it ranges from $1.23 in the Guangxi province to $2.51 in Beijing.

A star anise farm in Guangxi, China. Photo by fuzheado via Flickr

In Zimbabwe the minimum wage only applies for agricultural and domestic workers, and in South Africa, farm workers earn approximately $0.85 per hour. North Koreans average $2.5-5 a day while Latvia gives teenagers and those who work in dangerous conditions a higher rate ($3.01 compared to $2.63).

If Obama's proposed hike goes through, it will put the U.S. as the tenth highest minimum wage, edging the UK out of the top ten ($10.02), but the rise will only apply to future contracts, not those already in place.

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Migrant Lives

The Other Scandal At The Poland-Belarus Border: Where's The UN?

The United Nations, UNICEF, Red Cross and other international humanitarian organizations seems to be trying to reach the Polish-Belarusian border, where Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is creating a refugee crisis on purpose.

Migrants in Michalowo, Belarus, next to the border with Poland.

Wojciech Czuchnowski

WARSAW — There is no doubt that the refugees crossing the Belarusian border with Poland — and by extension reaching the European Union — were shepherded through by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. There is more than enough evidence that this is an organized action of the dictator using a network of intermediaries stretching from Africa and the Middle East. But that is not all.

The Belarusian regime has made no secret that its services are guiding refugees to the Polish border, literally pushing them onto (and often, through) the wires.

It can be seen in films made available to the media by... Belarusian border guards and Lukashenko's official information agencies.

Tactics of a strongman

Refugees are not led to the border by "pretend soldiers" in uniforms from a military collectibles store. These are regular formations commanded by state authorities. Their actions violate all rules of peaceful coexistence and humanitarianism to which Belarus has committed itself as a state.

Belarus is dismissed by the "rest of the world" as a hopeless case of a bizarre (although, in the last year, increasingly brutal) dictatorship. But it still formally belongs to a whole range of organizations whose principles it violates every day on the border with Poland.

Indeed, Belarus is a part of the United Nations (it is even listed as a founding state in its declaration), it belongs to the UNICEF, to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and even to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Photo of Polish soldiers setting up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Polish soldiers set up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Maciej Luczniewski/ZUMA

Lukashenko would never challenge the Red Cross

Each of these entities has specialized bureaus whose task is to intervene wherever conventions and human rights are violated. Each of these organizations should have sent their observers and representatives to the conflict area long ago — and without asking Belarus for permission. They should be operating on both sides of the border, as their presence would certainly make it more difficult to break the law.

An incomprehensible absence

Neither the leader of Poland's ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczyński nor even Lukashenko would dare to keep the UN, UNICEF, OSCE or the Red Cross out of their countries.

In recent weeks, the services of one UN state (Belarus) have been regularly violating the border of another UN state (Poland). In the nearby forests, children are being pushed around and people are dying. Despite all of this, none of the international organizations seems to be trying to reach the border nor taking any kind of action required by their responsibilities.

Their absence in such a critical time and place is completely incomprehensible, and their lack of action raises questions about the use of international treaties and organizations created to protect them.

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